Rheumatoid Arthritis and Hair Loss

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Kelly, same hair loss as below mostly glued down

Does RA Disease cause hair loss?

Hair loss is one of the things you frequently hear about in the RA community. Patients have two questions:

  1. What’s causing my hair loss?
  2. What can I do about it?

Hair loss can be a side effect of Rheumatoid Arthritis treatment

Some DMARDs (disease modifying antirheumatic drugs) list hair loss as a possible side effect. With methotrexate, hair loss can usually be mitigated by taking higher doses of folic acid. However, some Rheumatoid Arthritis treatments are still new enough that long term side effects might not be known.

What else could cause hair loss in people with Rheumatoid Arthritis?

People living with RA can have hair loss related to other common causes such as dietary deficiencies or hormonal imbalances. And it’s no coincidence this happens to them more frequently because living with RA increases the odds of having other such conditions. For example, RA patients are more likely to have an autoimmune thyroid disease as a co-morbidity and more likely to suffer from a variety of vitamin or mineral deficiencies secondary to the RA.

New hair growth after hair loss

What helps hair loss with RA?

Some patients quit medications due to hair loss. Others have found supplements or shampoos that help such as biotin (a B vitamin). It would always be a good idea to run some basic blood tests with a primary doctor to see if a treatable cause can be found.

Can hair loss be caused by Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Most sources do not list hair loss as a symptom of Rheumatoid Arthritis. I’m still doubtful that the disease is to blame in a direct way since it’s rarely mentioned as a symptom. However, if RA is to blame, it would not be the first time the literature was wrong. (There are clear reasons for that syndrome, but that’s for another post.)

So, let’s approach this with an open mind.

  1. What is your experience with hair loss and RA? Some, none, temporary, permanent?
  2. Was any hair loss obviously connected to a medication side effect?
  3. What has helped you with a hair loss problem?

My experience with RA and hair loss:

While taking methotrexate, I had noticeable hair loss a couple of times, but it was temporary. I was very surprised when I was off methotrexate for a few months and the hair loss was worse than ever.  I have a history of severe thyroid disease, so I tend to blame that, but there were no other thyroid symptoms.

Lucky for me, I started with enough hair for two people so I can make it look okay. Unless the wind blows. There are tons of shorter pieces all through my head where it’s trying to grow back. I take that as a good sign, even while the loss continues.

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Kelly Young. All rights reserved.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, October 4th, 2011 at 10:45 am and is filed under Living with RA / Managing RA. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


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